Edward Gardner: Records that changed my life

Marco Marcelline 28 September 2021

The London Philharmonic Orchestra's principal conductor Edward Gardner shares the records that shaped him

Queen by Queen

Queen (self titled) album cover

When I was around nine years old, my parents got me this portable LP player and the first disc that I played on it was Queen. I think I first heard of them through my brother who was a fan. I know a lot of people who went to see them live at the famous Knebworth concert but unfortunately I was just a little bit too young.

I absolutely loved the energy and fantasy of their music. That disc got absolutely worn out on my poor little portable record player in my room. Even now, I think they’re amazing and I listen to them loads. My favourite track has to be “Seven Seas of Rhye”. It is such a fun ballad, and full of Freddie Mercury’s completely inimitable sound and energy. Queen is timeless.

The Stone Roses by The Stone Roses

The Stone Roses album cover

This has to be one of my favourite non-classical albums. The Stone Roses is amazing, and it has that kind of grungy, indie sound that was so unique, and they were so virtuoso with what they did. My favourite tracks are “Fools Gold” and “I Wanna Be Adored”, but the whole album is a winner. It really feels like a concept album, where you go on a journey through all the songs.

It’s such emotionally connected music and it has a lot of drive in the drumming which was always their calling card. The Stone Roses is a very soulful and beautifully delivered record that I keep coming back to.

Symphony No.8 (Mahler) by London Philharmonic Orchestra with Klaus Tennstedt as conductor

This piece is a massive staple of choral music, and it’s quite wild with a big chorus and an enormous orchestra.  In that era with Klaus Tennstedt as conductor [in the 1980s], their performances were filled with such exuberance, as well as being deeply emotional.

There’s something about Mahler’s music which chimes with the way a symphony orchestra plays. I think Tennstedt had a unique grasp on all the elements of Mahler and the strength and depth of the emotional journey and the virtuosity at the same time.

"There’s something about Mahler’s music which chimes with the way a symphony orchestra plays"

He understood Mahler as well as anyone I think in the history of the music of Mahler. It was so wonderful to hear such a human performance of it [Symphony No.8].  I was actually going to be in the children’s choir for that recording but my voice broke about two weeks before so I never got to be in it sadly, but I can still appreciate the album from afar.

Christmas Oratorio by JS Bach and performed by Sir John Eliot Gardiner as conductor

This was a piece that I discovered in my early twenties. As a kid I thought of Bach as this very serious baroque composer of church music but I couldn’t believe the effervescence and the fun that he got into in this performance. And this performance is on period instruments so it has a much leaner, cleaner sound than we might sometimes be used to.

Sir John Eliot Gardiner understands that music as well as anyone and he really brought to life something that felt quite academic to me in the past and so it’s a recording that I keep coming back to. It was a recording that was made in the 80s, and for a period performance where you’re playing with old instruments, the recording still sounds completely freshit could’ve been made today.

Spem in alium by Thomas Tallis

I’d always heard quite simple choral music growing up and the idea that someone 500 years ago could have written a motet for 40 individual voices to be performed in really grand cathedrals is quite overwhelming. It gives the music a sense of space which feels quite unique even today.

A performance of that piece is always a very special occasion in the choral world, even now, because it’s such a unique soundscape. It’s performed with eight choirs of five singers who are meant to be placed all around a large cathedral. If you’re at all religious it gives you an amazing celebration of what religion is and what we’re all aiming for.

Edward Gardner conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of Lili Boulanger’s D’un matin de printemps, Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique and Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto with soloist Nicolas Altstaedt. Friday 1 October, 7:30pm, Royal Festival Hall. You can book tickets here.

You can also watch the concert for free for 48 hours on Marquee TV from Saturday 13 November after which they will be added to the LPO collection of concerts accessible to Marquee TV subscribers. Log in here.

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